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Natural HistoryMammals - LargeGrizzly Bear - Ursus arctos horribilisJournals
Standoff
 

Gentlemen!

n May 11, 1805, a few miles upstream from the mouth of the Milk River, one member of the party had a hairbreadth escape from death. Lewis recorded the details:

About 5 P.M. my attention was struck by one of the Party running at a distance toward us and making signs and hollowing as if in distress, I ordered the perogues to put too, and waited until he arrived; I found that it was Bratton the man with the soar hand whom I had permitted to walk on shore, he arrived so much out of breath that it was several minutes before he could tell what had happened...

Private William Bratton, who was not among their best hunters,

...had shot a brown bear which immediately turned on him and pursued him a considerable distance but he had wounded it so badly that it could not overtake him; I immediately turned out with seven of the party in quest of this monster, we at length found his trale and persued him about a mile by the blood through very thick brush of rosbushes and the large leafed willow; we finally found him concealed in some very thick brush and shot him through the skull with two balls...

They might well have shaken their heads in amazement.

we proceeded dress him as soon as possible,...we now found that Bratton had shot him through the center of the lungs, notwithstanding which he had pursued him near half a mile and had returned more than double that distance and with his tallons had prepared himself a bed in the earth of about 2 feet deep and five long and was perfectly alive when we found him which could not have been less than 2 hours after he received the wound


Captain Lewis was beginning to get a better grip on the grizzly.

these bear being so hard to die reather intimedates us all; I must confess that I do not like the gentlemen and had reather fight two Indians than one bear.


His choice of word in reference to Ursus horribilis, spontaneously drawn from his lexicon of manners and slightly tinged with sarcasm, was nontheless fitting. "Gentlemen" denoted landowners, and those beasts indisputably were the natural lords of this land. We may forgive his flash of bravado, also. He had not yet fought any Indians, and was to do so only once in his life on July 27, 1806. But he would survive his own solitary showdown with a grizzly just five weeks later.

--Joseph Mussulman, 1999

Standoff


 
From Discovering Lewis & Clark ®, http://www.lewis-clark.org © 1998-2014
by The Lewis and Clark Fort Mandan Foundation, Washburn, North Dakota.
Journal excerpts are from The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, edited by Gary E. Moulton
13 vols. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983-2001)